Review | The Holy Bible
“Review of The Holy Bible horror anthology compiled by executive editor Emperor Constantine and the associate editors of the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Trent. The work has been republished by a number of companies based in Nashville, Tennessee.”
by Jay Wilburn
The Holy Bible is a horror anthology of epic scale and length. Competition to have a story included in this publication was stiff with many submissions considered and many authors’ works were included multiple times including most notably Paul of Tarsus, but also Luke, John, Peter, Solomon, and others.
I was surprised that though this anthology has been out for a while and has been widely read that there were no comprehensive, standard reviews to be found. I will attempt to rectify that now.
The anthology is split into two main sections. Many of the stories are reprints. All were translated from other languages so different editions of this anthology can have strikingly different wordings. The publication was compiled ahead of modern editing and publishing practices.
These editors attempted something quite ambitious with this anthology beyond just the size and scope. They attempted to use the works of these different authors to tell a broader narrative of a secret history of the universe.
It has spawned some unauthorized sequels including the Book of Mormon and the Qur’an. Though both of these have been quite successful, neither has reached the readership of The Bible.
The main characters are God and the Devil. There are an excessive number of secondary human and monster characters that carry and in some cases convolute the narrative of many of the pieces. Some characters make a brief, one verse appearance and then are never used again in the plot. This is a classic issue with new writers and some seasoned authors of alternate history. One example among many is Abdon. He has 40 sons, 30 grandsons, and they rode 70 donkeys. He is not mentioned again which begs the question of his inclusion in the grand tale. Another is Enoch. He vanishes in the first piece in the anthology. He is mentioned again later in one of Peter’s submissions, but there is great story and mystery here that is not explored due to so many other secondary characters and subplots.
The anthology opens with God talking to himself and referring to himself in the plural. This alludes to some sort of condition that plays a significant role in the later stories. It is not clear at first whether this is classic schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. There are at least three main personalities addressed during the anthology. The authors are careful not to reveal too much about God’s nature. It is possible that his infinite lifespan and his curse of omniscience play some role in this mysterious mental state.
It becomes clear as God creates the world that he is extremely prochoice. So much so, that he actual creates an opportunity for the first two humans to reject him and he tells them exactly how to do it. This leads to the unleashing of a great evil on the world and humanity. The Devil is introduced at this point and his role of either opposing God or playing along is not made clear yet.
Eventually, God uses a few characters to create a complex law for his fallen creations to follow. I’m not going to give it away, but in the later pieces, it is revealed that God had a different intention in creating this law beyond simple rules. It is a diabolical twist.
The first climax comes early in the second section with the introduction of Jesus, one of God’s personalities manifest in human form. Here we come upon the horns of another quirk of this anthology. The narrative centered around God as Jesus is repeated in four different submissions that while different cover some of the same story and plot points. We see this in the first half with multiple edits of the same submission in Kings and Chronicles among others.
There are some moments of great horror scattered through the various stories. Readers should be warned that some of the stories are graphic, sexually explicit, and heavy on gore. There is a story where God kills a man not for having sex with his dead brother’s wife, but for ejaculating on the ground. This seems to be personal because clearly from the amount of pornography I’ve seen, God does not issue this punishment very often.
Cain is afraid to go into the world for fear of being murdered. There seems to be no other people, but God gives him a mark anyway. Are there other people? Is God just messing with him? Where does his wife come from? These questions are haunting.
In another story, a concubine is raped and then chopped into pieces and mailed to twelve different people. This leads to a violent reaction and a very odd resolution.
There are tent pegs through skulls, fire from the sky, and very heavy sword and sorcery violence.
There are a number of missed opportunities for horror that I found quite striking. For example, it is revealed in one small section that the Devil actually worked for God and attempted a hostile take over which failed and led to their rivalry. This great battle would have been a strong addition to the creation story, but it is notably omitted.
With Noah, there is a flood. I don’t want to ruin the story, but the description of the drownings could have been much more detailed.
A crucifixion scene in the gospels which I will say is significant to the overall plot is described in some detail, but there is a lot of blood and gore that is glossed over.
Some stories lacked a satisfying ending. Jonah ends his story sitting under a vine pouting and his arc is not completed. Isaiah is stuck in a log and sawed in half, Peter is crucified upside down, and Paul is beheaded. None of these are included at the end of their stories. These are baffling exclusions in my mind.
The great twists in the Jesus portion are a highlight on the anthology. He slowly reveals his true intentions. Even being God, he appears unable or unwilling to keep and organize his followers. Without giving away the ending, it turns out there is a betrayer that is selected before the creation of the world by someone most unexpected. Just when you think the story has ended, the most significant twist of all flips the entire narrative on its ear. Many unexpected aspects of God’s nature are revealed as his Jesus personality battles demons … literally. The nature of the curse of omniscience are explored including foreknowledge of his many betrayals. Also with omnipotence as Jesus sends his disciples out, creates storms, and then calms them.
As with all anthologies some pieces are stronger or more reader engaging than others. Job is an interesting piece. It shows God and the Devil actually interacting and reveals some unusual dynamics of their relationship. One standout moment is God’s tendency to taunt the Devil by using him to complete his own plans. God tortures the Devil by letting him know the ending in advance and leaving him powerless to stop it. One missed opportunity includes the detailed description of a monster that isn’t really used in the story.
Psalms seems like a book of poetry, but contains some strong gore including death threats, blood up to your ankles, and bashing the skulls of the babies of your enemies on the rocks below.
Song of Solomon provides some strong erotica in a literary and poetic style.
Revelation really sets the standard for apocalyptic literature and establishes the vocabulary of the apocalypse used by other dystopian writers. It is heavy on symbolism, but uses monsters not seen in earlier pieces. It also resolves the climatic battle between the main characters, but I will not reveal who wins.
Others did not engage me as much. The book of Numbers is literally a book of numbers. Leviticus is heavy on description, but light on plot. Paul’s submissions are all letters. There are strong quotes and I have reread these pieces many times. Here, as with many parts of the anthology, the authors get a little preachy.
More could have been shown about God’s unique mental condition. The Jesus character lacked flaws which is usually seen as poor writing. Jesus and his father never fight or disagree. The main characters were often sent to the background for a cavalcade of secondary and peripheral characters. They are not mentioned at all in the book of Esther. The perspective shifts a lot. Because the main characters are immortal, but the story is told through the lives of mortal characters, we often follow characters for a short passage, but then leave them for other, sometimes less interesting generations. Not all plot points are fully explored or explained, but other items are described in exhaustive detail. I think in some ways the anthology is trying to be everything to everyone.
In particular, the plan of salvation is presented over a series of events that might leave some readers confused and in need of someone else to explain it. A plot point that significant would be expected to be made clearer earlier in the narrative, but the story is clearly meant to be a slow build.
The Holy Bible has sold many copies and has survived the test of time. Now sales figures are not the end all of quality in the marketplace, but it bears mentioning. This anthology and its individual works have been quoted often and are used as analogies, metaphors, and story models within horror, but also in other genre writing and literary work. Be warned that fans and opponents of these characters and their stories are rabidly devoted to their points of view much like with Twilight, Harry Potter, and Shades of Grey. I am mixed on my recommendation to readers. Some people think it is the greatest story ever told and they read it daily. Others see it as destructive and try to dissuade others from reading it through the hard work of tweeting a lot and sharing memes for Facebook. You’ll just have to pick up a copy and judge for yourself.
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Follow Jay at @AmongtheZombies